DOSBox emulates a full x86 pc with sound and DOS. Its main use is to run old DOS games on platforms which don’t have DOS (Windows 7 / Windows Vista / Windows 2000 / Windows XP / Linux / FreeBSD / Mac OS X)
We did the interview a little differently this time, as the developers wanted to do the interview on IRC.
Rich: First, congratulations on being awarded Project of the Month, and being the first project *ever* to have that honor twice.
Qbix: guess we must be doing something right then
Harekiet: hehe nice, how long has that been going on now?
Rich: Since 2002.
Rich: Why is there still a demand for a DOS emulator these days?
Qbix: Good question. The charms of old games maybe
Harekiet: I’ve been kinda wondering about that as well, must mostly just be nostalgia with people that played dos games, can’t really see any kids playing them. And the occasional company that still runs their ancient stuff
Qbix: Although, some of the support requests are (based on their use of language) at least of younger ones.
Rich: And apparently some 35,000 other people every week, too.
Qbix: I would think that everybody who wanted to play a game, would have downloaded dosbox by now
Rich: I know that’s why I started using DOSBox, probably 10 years ago.
Rich: Take us back to the beginning. How did you get started doing this?
Harekiet: Well that would be my doing mostly since I was playing emulated console roms and I always wanted to see how dos games could look with some of the graphic enhancement filters they used in those. And that was at the time windows 2000 came along and dos support in windows was on the decline rapidly
Qbix: And we relied on VDMSound
Rich: Is there still more to do? Is development still active, or is it primarily end-user support these days?
Qbix: Well, development is slow, but still there.
Harekiet: And to really add new features you kinda get annoyed at some of the design choices made at the time and really think it might be better to just write a new emulator from scratch
Qbix: True, so mostly we’re just improving compatibility at the moment.
Qbix: Although, some long requested features will probably be in the next version. But the new emulator from scratch idea is very tempting, with the knowledge that we have now on how to do it better
Rich: Does that seem like a serious possibility now, or is that just an idea at this point?
Harekiet: Yeah, it’s mostly just an idea
Harekiet: If you can really bring up the energy for it, especially if you consider other emulators like qemu that provide better pc emulation but could be tweaked for better dos support, so many possibilities
Qbix: Yeah, starting anew will take a lot of resources and energy
Rich: Is there any interest in adding support for other platforms like Android? Does that even make any sense?
Qbix: It’s actually already there, but not by us, at least not at the moment
Harekiet: It’s been ported to ios and android by others
Rich: How large is the actual developer community? Is it just the two of you, or do you have other major contributors.
Qbix: we have more than just us
Harekiet: Well we used to have another active developer but he gave up on it and there’s some active people making patches
Harekiet: But I’d say Qbix is most active with it
Qbix: yeah there is h-a-l-9000 who is an official dev and a few people who make patches on regular basis
Rich: Have you ever had any legal challenges about what you’re doing?
Qbix: Well, we are used a lot by companies, and some of them don’t have an idea what the GPL means, just that dosbox is free and works.
Harekiet: And we’ve held off on the mt32 emulator since it would require the roland roms. Although i don’t really think it would cause that much trouble, thought scummvm had it added as well
Qbix: Yes, and by making it a seperate driver, more projects can benefit. The mt32 emu has made a lot of progress lately – starts to sound as good as my real mt32. But we try to stay clear from legal problems.
Rich: So, nobody suing you because of emulating their stuff?
Rich: Oh, good.
Qbix: All our legal stuff is trying to get companies to stick the GPL.
Rich: If someone wanted to get involved in your project, 1) what kind of skills would they need and 2) what would need to be done?
Harekiet: That’s always quite a troublesome question, you get mails of people asking that
Qbix: Everybody who wants to get involved basically first needs to debug games that don’t work and fix them
Harekiet: It’s not like dosbox has proper documentation and if they can figure out how dosbox works that’s probably a good start
Qbix: Yeah, that is the idea of them fixing games – getting familiar with dosbox and all the things it emulates. So many specs… all the hardware, BIOS, video BIOS, DOS, XMS, EMS, MSCDEX and lots of other standards
Harekiet: I’d rather want that they spend their time making some wine for windows properly, some weird early windows games that don’t run in xp anymore. Or windows 7 for that matter
Rich: Well, thanks so much for taking time to talk with me. And congratulations again.
Qbix: Thanks for hosting us all these years!
Harekiet: What’s the total bandwith wasted?
Rich: 24,256,320 downloads
Harekiet: 3.6*10^13 bytes my calc says assuming 1.4mb per download. 33 Tb? that seems a bit excessive
Rich: Thanks again for your time.
Qbix: okay. Thanks!